Is Cooking work or art?

I have been asked many times what do I do for a living. I generally take the line of least resistance and say caterer. I am now beginning to think that this term doesn’t really cover it all. Looking at a number of my recent clients events I have organised music, marquees, tables, chairs, crockery, glasses, cutlery etc. None of these are cooking. Some may be connected to cooking but in reality they have nothing to do with the process of cooking.

So what should I call myself?

My business card says “Chef and Jolly Nice Chap” which I hope most people will recognise. But does it cover the real business of cooking? I am a great fan of  Franck Pontais. Many will not have heard of Franck. He is a chef who learned his craft in Paris and is now in the UK making a name for himself with Verrines and Terrines. This is his trademark and his book of the same name is fabulous. He now calls himself a Kitchen Artist. When you look at his creations in the book you will understand why.

Mullet and Mussel Verrine cooked at the Oxford Foodie Festival 2012

My chef heroes include Raymond Blanc, Thomas Keller, Gary Rhodes, Gary Jones, and writers such as Elizabeth David. Many more chefs and writers books are on my bookshelf. I use many of them regularly to help me create dining experiences for my clients.
These chefs and writers convey their passion for food, ingredients and regions where great recipes are handed down and developed still. Many of them I would call a “Kitchen Artist” because once the techniques and technical processes are completed the result still comes down to the presentation and appeal of the food on the plate!

Pear Poached in Beetroot Jus with Plums

Pear Poached in Beetroot Jus with Baked Plums

I broadcast regularly on BBC Radio Oxford and in providing the recipes based on seasonality, availability and simplicity I find that cooking live on air has a level of immediacy which adds to the recipe, hopefully making it more real for the listener. Part of this process is about being creative and also making sure that the recipes have that key element, they are easy to do at home.

Lemoncello Creme Brulee with Redcurrants

Lemoncello Creme Brulee with Redcurrants

Well perhaps calling myself a Kitchen Artist might raise an eyebrow with a number of close friends and family but I think describing myself as a caterer does not do what I do justice. I will certainly describe myself as a Chef and look for some other name that reflects not only the process of cooking but also the creativity of cookery. Let me know if you have any suitable alternatives for the term, Chef. Look forward to hearing from you.

Oh, by the way,  I have  started to publish a series of illustrated recipe guides on Amazon for the Kindle. Have a look in the Kindle Shop searching on Paul Bellchambers.

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